After protests, Russian prison service wants more tasers, protective gear

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FILE PHOTO: Rally in support of Alexei Navalny in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's prison authority has this month issued tenders for the purchase of hundreds of tasers, smoke grenades and protective gear, according to state procurement documents.

The orders follow mass rallies in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny at which thousands of people were detained by police, but the documents did not specify a reason for the tenders.

One tender issued by a unit of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), published on the publicly available state procurement online portal on Feb. 1, requested the provision of 1,400 tasers for 14.3 million roubles ($192,000).

The portal showed the same unit had issued several other tenders since Feb. 1 to purchase 1,000 stun grenades, 720 smoke grenades and thousands of shields, helmets and gun belts.

The Interior Ministry and the FSIN did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the tenders and what they were intended for.

Navalny was arrested last month when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had treatment after being poisoned with a nerve agent in Siberia last August. He was jailed on Feb. 2 for alleged parole violations.

Supporters have staged large rallies in Moscow and other cities since his arrest, calling for his release.

The OVD-info protest monitoring group said last month that space in Moscow jails had become hard to find because so many people had been detained during the protests.

Allies of Navalny, and some human rights groups, have accused police of using disproportionate force to break up the unauthorised rallies. The Kremlin has rejected allegations of state repression against Navalny's supporters.

One of Navalny's close allies has said his team will not be holding street protests for now, preferring instead to wait until the spring and summer.

($1 = 74.4450 roubles)

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Timothy Heritage)